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BuzzFeed workers walk off the job to protest contract talks

BuzzFeed News employees plan to walk off the job today to protest what they say is the company’s failure to agree to a fair labor contract, creating turmoil at the startup days before it goes public.

The NewsGuild of New York, which represents the journalists, said they plan to stop working for one day to call attention to the stalled contract negotiations, which have been going on for two years. The union says management has proposed 1% guaranteed wage increases per year and a salary floor of $50,000.

“That is not a sustainable living wage, and it is not enough to attract a true diverse talent pool that’s crucial to the future of BuzzFeed,” the union said.

BuzzFeed says it has offered a minimum 2.5% wage increase to the union, with each member guaranteed a 1% raise, and the remaining 1.5% to be distributed across the unit based on merit.

BuzzFeed says the news union, which covers about 60 of the company’s 1,100 employees, has not responded to its recent counter-offer on wages.

“There’s a bargaining session planned next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues,” a BuzzFeed News spokesperson said.

The walkout arrives at a big moment for BuzzFeed Inc. The online media startup plans to go public through a merger with blank-check company, 890 5th Avenue Partners Inc., valuing the business at $1.5 billion. As part of the deal, BuzzFeed agreed to acquire youth-focused media company Complex Networks from Hearst Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

BuzzFeed shareholders are expected to vote on the deal Thursday and the company will likely begin trading Monday under the stock ticker BZFD.

“Workers are calling on management to focus less on growing the company economically, and more on their employees, who have been fighting for two years to reach a fair union contract with adequate pay raises, affordable health care, a sensible outside work policy, and reasonable discipline standards,” the union said.

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